What are Violations of the False Claims Act?
Any fraud on a federal government agency could potentially be a violation of the federal False Claims Act. Not every government fraud involves millions of dollars. Take, for example, a recent settlement announced by the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General.
According to the DOJ’s press release, Douglas daCosta of Livermore California, a former federal law enforcement agent in the San Francisco field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), has agreed to settle allegations that he submitted false claims to the federal government for paid sick leave when he wasn’t sick. Wait. What? An employee got in trouble with the federal government for playing hooky from work? Yes.
The DOJ alleged that between January 2009 and June 2009, daCosta submitted claims to the ATF for over 80 sick days. daCosta reportedly told his supervisors that he was undergoing treatments for cancer when, in fact, he did not have cancer and he was not undergoing any medical treatment. The government contends that daCosta even presented a forged letter from a physician to support his claims. Allegedly, daCosta was working in the private sector at the same time he was supposedly undergoing cancer treatment and while he was submitting claims for paid sick leave to the government.
The government contended that each day of paid sick leave that daCosta claimed, when he wasn’t actually sick, was a separate “false claim” under the False Claims Act. daCosta has agreed to pay $40,000 to settle the government’s allegations.
What’s the lesson to be learned here? When your salary is funded with taxpayer dollars, if you call in sick, you had better actually be sick.